GeekMom Fail: My Kids Don’t Like the ‘Star Wars’ Movies

Today, just like most every geek on the planet, I am counting down the days until Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters. We have tickets for the whole family and, here it comes: my kids couldn’t care less.

They’re not looking forward to it and they’d rather hang out at home. They don’t like the Star Wars movies.

Continue reading GeekMom Fail: My Kids Don’t Like the ‘Star Wars’ Movies

‘Red Dwarf’: Ten Years Later

Image via

When I was 12, I began my second year at senior school in England. This was the “big” school and I had spent much of the first year in relative obscurity. With a few friends, but no one especially close, it wasn’t proving to be a stellar experience. Then a stellar sci-fi show injected new hope into my school social standing. While getting ready for gym one day, I heard a familiar song being sung by a fellow classmate. “It’s cold outside, there’s no kind of atmosphere…” and as I finished the theme song’s refrain, I became fast friends with someone who would give me a confidence I had never known, and introduce me to many more people. I credit the BBC sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf with some of my most memorable friendships, and for my remaining years far outstripping my first in terms of camaraderie and fun.

Red Dwarf is an irreverent comedy set aboard a deep space mining ship. It follows the adventures of Dave Lister, the last man alive after an explosion on the ship kills everyone else. When he is awakened from deep freeze, three million years later, he finds that his only companions are a hologram of his bunk mate, Arnold Rimmer; the ship’s computer, Holly; an Android, Kryten; and a creature that evolved from his cat, named Cat. The show began with a low budget but a huge amount of humor and bizarre goings on. The later seasons did not agree with me so much, and I’m not usually one for re-hashing old ideas, but the thought of this show being re-booted, now that gets my original geek going.

What makes this even more exciting is that everyone is on board. Two seasons are anticipated and the original cast—Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, Robert Llewellyn, and Danny John-Jules—have all signed up. The new series are also being written by the show’s creator, Doug Naylor. This has all the makings of a smegging fantastic comeback! If you are looking for some obscure British comedy to watch, you can catch Red Dwarf on Hulu.

GeekMom: Comic Book Corner — Sci-Fi Love and a Strong-Willed Female Outlaw

Robyn Hood #1 \ Art by Larry Watts
Robyn Hood #1. Art by Larry Watts.

Happy Comic Release Day! Welcome to another installment of GeekMom Comic Book Corner, where we recap our adventures in comics for the week. Today, I’m excited to check out a very early release of Pat Shand’s latest creation in Robyn Hood #1 and Corrina sees what happens when you take a fairy tale, throw in a touch of love, and finish if off with some sci-fi.

Dakster Sullivan — Robyn Hood #1 written by Pat Shand and art by Larry Watts

The first issue of Robyn Hood’s ongoing series was everything I could ask for and more. We get an explanation as to why Marian cut off her long locks and what she and Robyn have been doing since coming back from Myst.

Now working as private detectives, Robyn does the dirty work and Marian works the office. By “works,” I mean she has declared that everything technology is wicked and cursed. (I think I know a few people like that at my office.)

This first story arc takes us into the underground of a soul-stealing priest and the ending was enough of a cliffhanger to leave us hanging without pulling our hair out screaming, “What happens next?!?!?”

For cosplay purposes, I like how they have Robyn wearing a glamour lens during some of her escapades. It makes it a lot easier to not get trolled at conventions for not having a mystical glowing eye.

At the end of the issue, I couldn’t be happier for the adventure Pat Shand has put us on and let me say that it’s about freaking time Robyn got her own series instead of a little five-issue mini-series.

Curious to know what I’m pulling this week? Check out my pull list on Comixology.

Age Recommendation: Teens for mature content

Trillium by Jeff Lemire, from Vertigo Comics.

Corrina — Trillium by Jeff Lemire, writer and illustrator, due out on 8/12/2014

This is a love story, a fairy tale, and a hard science-fiction story. It’s a story of the loss of the entire human race on one side, and the loss of innocence of a generation on the other side. It should be impossible to pack this much into one story, but Lemire succeeds, especially at knowing when to back off on words and let the pictures tell the story.

The two leads of Trillium are at opposite ends of space and time. Nika Temsmith is a botanist searching for a flower that can cure a rapidly-spreading plague taking out the human race. At the heart of her search is a mysterious pyramid on an alien world. William Pike is a renowned explorer scarred by his experience as a soldier in World War I, and at the heart of his explorations is a mysterious pyramid.

William and Nika both go into the pyramid, but they don’t go out quite the same. To say more would give away all of the twists and turns in this story. It’s beautiful, sad, and the artwork is complimentary to how jagged the worlds of Nika and William can be.

Age level: 10 + for mature themes

bodies #1
Cover by Fiona Stephenson, copyright Vertigo Comics.

Bodies #1 written by Si Spencer, art by Meghan Hetrick-Murante, Dean Ormston, Tula Lotay, and Phil Winslade

Four time periods, four highly unusual detectives, one setting (London), and one body that appears to be the same in all their worlds; that’s the premise of this new Vertigo series. The time periods are 1890s Victorian-era London, 1940s London, modern-day London featuring a multi-cultural detective, and 2050, with a detective who has trouble even remembering her own name. Each time period is handled by one writer, with the Victorian setting being the most familiar to Sherlock Holmes readers, while the future setting is the trippiest and most unusual.

It all works, at least in this first issue, with the detectives and their cases introduced well, with no one setting crowding out the others. It’s a delicate balance—but so far, so good.

Age level: Teen +

To check out what is coming to a comic book store near you today, head over to ComiXology for a complete list of new releases!

Guardians of the Galaxy Cast Reach for the Stars

Guardians of the Galaxy © Marvel Comics
Image courtesy Disney.

If there’s one thing director James Gunn got right when making Guardians of the Galaxy (and he actually got a lot right), it was the casting. From top to bottom, the assembled group of talent on screen is truly impressive. I mean, we’re talking big names like Glenn Close and John C. Reilly in supporting roles with very little screen time (they make it count, naturally). As for the main cast, the film relies on each of them to bring a range of complex, sometimes even contradictory, qualities to their characters. They all have the capacity to be both noble and roguish, tough and vulnerable, deathly serious and lighthearted. Part of the fun of the film is watching the titular team come together as a group.

A couple weeks ago I got to watch many of those actors come together in real life at a press conference to promote the film. In attendance at the event were stars Chris Pratt, Michael Rooker, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Benicio del Toro, and director James Gunn. According to Gunn, it was the first time they’d been assembled in one place (Diesel provided the voice of Groot but didn’t play the character on screen and del Toro’s role is basically an extended cameo).

Pratt grounds the film as Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, an ordinary human who was abducted from Earth as a child and raised by Yondu (Rooker), the leader of a group of intergalactic outlaws known as Ravagers. When Peter steals a mysterious orb he becomes the target of multiple pursuers, including bounty hunters Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Diesel), as well as a trained assassin named Gamora (Saldana). They all eventually cross paths with Drax the Destroyer (Bautista), a convict seeking to avenge the deaths of his wife and child, and must put their differences aside to face an even greater threat that could mean the destruction of the entire galaxy.

“I’m like so emotional right now,” Gunn said as the press conference began. “Because I’ve missed these guys so much. I luckily got to spend some time with Zoe and Dave last week, but everybody else I haven’t been around and it’s just an amazing moment for us, I think.”

Gunn wasn’t just passionate about his cast, he animatedly talked about the origins of the project and what it meant to him to bring these characters to life on screen. When asked about taking on a lesser-known property from the Marvel universe, he said that it was “liberating.”

“I think I would have had a harder time trying to fit into the regular Marvel scheme of things,” he said. “This gave me a chance to take what I loved about Marvel movies and Marvel comics and create a whole new universe, which really has been the most exciting thing in my entire professional career.”

Guardians of the Galaxy © Marvel Comics
Image courtesy Disney.

For Pratt, it was also a big step. Until last year he was probably best known as lovable doofus Andy in Parks and Recreation. Then, he lent his voice to the lead role in the blockbuster film The Lego Movie, followed by this starring role in Guardians of Galaxy. He’ll next be seen on the big screen running from dinosaurs in next year’s Jurassic World. Despite all the increased attention, Pratt taking this new career direction in stride.

“I’d been sort of having an identity crisis as an actor,” he said. “I didn’t know what I was, if I was a action guy or a comedy guy. And I thought maybe I could do a combination of both, but there’s nothing out there that’s like it. [I thought] maybe I have to develop something, And my manager just kept saying, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy, man.’ I said, ‘All right, maybe you’re right. Let’s go meet on it.’ And then James said, ‘I just want somebody to do their thing.’ And part of me thought, ‘Okay, well then I’ll just do my thing and if it’s not right, that’s okay.’ But I had an idea what that thing was and it was the thing that I got to do in this movie.”

Each of the actors in turn got a chance to talk about what their role in the film meant to them and what attracted them to it. Though Saldana was cast late in the process and arrived last on set, she said had a very specific view of how to portray Gamora when she arrived.

“I just didn’t want Gamora to look like any typical action person that’s just like very martial artsy and just does that Underworld jump and lands and the ground breaks and shit,” she said. “I wanted her to be a little more graceful and sleek, very classy in the way that she fights.”

The inspiration hit her, she said, as she was watching some footage of a Spanish bullfighter in action: “I’ve never seen somebody move so smoothly. It was just such a seductive dance. And I thought, ‘Well, that’s Gamora.’ She’s a woman and she just has to be very seductive in the way that she tricks her enemy into falling into their own death. And I thought. ‘Well, that’ll be interesting to do. I’ve never done that.'”

Guardians of the Galaxy © Marvel Comics
Image courtesy Disney.

Just as Gunn gave Saldana the freedom to play with her character, del Toro also appreciated the way the directed allowed him to take chances with the smaller role of Taneleer Tivan, aka The Collector.

“I felt like I could explore the character in every way I would have wanted to,” del Toro said. “And James was very supportive to taking chances and trying different things. And I felt like an animal that grows up in a cage and suddenly you open the door and he comes out and he’s tentative to take chances. James was very, very nice to me to allow me to like go, go, go, go, go. And so at the end I was like, ‘Oh, I could have done this, I could have done that.’ But it was a great feeling.”

One of the most heartfelt moments in the press conference came when Diesel talked about the timing of the project, coming as it did on the heels of the death of his friend and Fast and Furious co-star Paul Walker in November of 2013. As a gentle, humanoid tree, Groot symbolized growth and regeneration in a way that spoke deeply to the actor at the time.

“It was at a very important time when I did this movie because it was in December and it was the first time I was coming around humans again and the first time I was working again,” Diesel said. “And there was something very therapeutic about in my personal life— I guess in my professional life, too—dealing with death and then playing a character that celebrates life in the way that Groot celebrates life. I took my kids to a screening to see this movie and they walk around the house reciting Star-Lord, Gamora, and all the characters. Something very beautiful happened in playing this role. Something that as an actor I never would have imagined.”

Guardians of the Galaxy opens in theaters on Aug. 1.

Green Tara: Sci-Fi Eco Adventure

green tara_print_front_cover_cropped_400dpi
Image By KH. Brower

Ecology gets a space-adventure for young adults in a new book by K.H. Brower.  Green Tara: A Bosque Family Adventure is set in a future where Earth can no longer sustain life; colonists have gone off to live without our beloved planet.

However, there is one family, the Bosques, that had a plan long ago to someday renew the Earth. Fast-forward several generations to the main character of the novel, Virginia Bosque: a teenage girl living on a large space-ship with an emotionally distant father, a furry pet robot, and a cousin named Gordy. Her mother disappeared when she was five, and Dot (the furry pet robot) is her only link, since her mother designed and programmed it. Gordy’s mother is also gone. Life on the ship is strict due to the Triumverate, a corporate controlled government that rules the humans still around the universe. Virginia’s only goal in life is to fly freely in her Blast- a small spaceship she is still too young to pilot on her own.

Purely by accident, Virginia and Gordy discover details about their missing mothers, and the Bosque family mission to bring life back to Earth. They set off on an adventure to a secret planet called Tara where humans have been nurturing Earth plants and animals. They find Virginia’s mother, but it is not the loving reunion Virginia always hoped for. In fact, nothing is what Virginia hoped for. She is thrust into a role she was unprepared for, with parents who were never there for her, physically or emotionally. Written in first person, our heroine thinks Gordy and Dot are the only ones who seem to really care about her. She is overwhelmed with dealing with family issues, let alone saving Earth! But she has courage and hope.


The ecological message is there, but never forced beyond what is necessary for the plot, which I really appreciated. However, except for the lush vegetation described on Tara, the book lacked much in the way of description. I often found myself struggling to envision the physical sci-fi world Virginia was a part of, including the characters. I looked up later that this book was originally a script, which explains a lot. However, Virginia’s thoughts and emotions are well written and bring depth to the book that would otherwise just be a fun action novel. Gordy and Virginia are well-rounded characters, and I hope we get a story from Gordy’s point of view next.

Does Virginia help her family’s mission to restore life on Earth? Join a band of space-pirates (that is an option!)? Or figure out how to return to her previous life under the Triumverate? I won’t give away any more of the plot here, but Green Tara is full of action and emotion for ages nine and up.

Geekmom received a copy of the book for review purposes.

TNT Is Planning a Falling Skies Marathon

Noah Wyle stars in TNT's "Falling Skies." Image: © TNT/James Dittiger.
Noah Wyle stars in TNT’s “Falling Skies.” Image: © TNT/James Dittiger.

Everyone thought that Noah Wyle had gone crazy when he announced plans to leave ER after 11 seasons. Well, the former TV doctor decided to join forces with DreamWorks and Steven Spielberg, and now the trio is about to kick off the third season of Falling Skies.

Falling Skies takes place in Boston, just months after an alien attack. Wyle stars as a former Boston University history professor and current leader of the 2nd Massachusetts Militia Regiment. Of course, I could go into details about the plot points and characters from the first two seasons to help you catch up–or you could just watch the entire show yourself.

The first two seasons are currently available on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital download. However, why pay when you can catch all 20 episodes absolutely free? TNT just announced plans to air the first two seasons of Falling Skies, in their entirety, just a week before the season three premiere.

Get ready to fire up the DVR, people. The cable network will run the first season as a Memorial Day marathon, starting at 10:00 a.m. (ET/PT) on Monday, May 27. The second season will start on the following Saturday on June 1. If you’re just looking for a quick refresher from season two, TNT will run the back-half of that season on Saturday, June 8.

From there, Falling Skies will launch its third season with a two-hour television event on Sunday, June 9 at 9:00 p.m. According to TNT, Doug Jones, Gloria Reuben, Robert Sean Leonard, Stephen Collins and Terry O’Quinn will all make appearances during the upcoming season.

Star Wars And History How Real History Formed A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Star Wars History

You may know your Star Wars history, but do you know how events in the real world helped form the one you saw on the movie screen? Star Wars And History is an in-depth look at how George Lucas drew on real people and events from history to create one of the most beloved franchises of all time.

Authors Nancy R. Reagin and Janice Liedl bring both a scholarly and fan-based point of view to this book. Reagin is Professor of History and Women’s & Gender studies at Pace University while Liedl is Associate Professor of History at Laurentian University. Both combine that scholarly background with an interest and active participation in Star Wars fandom.

Continue reading Star Wars And History How Real History Formed A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Download All Of Mur Lafferty's Ebooks For Free

Mur Lafferty, author, host of Escape Pod (among other podcasts), and all around geek mom herself, is a nominee for the John W. Campbell award at WorldCon. But because of the award’s rules, the writing sample included in the voting packet that WorldCon Attending and Supporting members receive will include only one story, one from Cabinet of Curiosities.

Because she’d like the voters to see more of her work, she’s offering up all of her ebooks for free for the next two months. If you’re attending WorldCon and eligible to vote, she hopes you’ll enjoy and consider these pieces as well. If you’re not, you’re still welcome to download them, and she asks that when her next book is released, you leave a review on Amazon, GoodReads, or Barnes and Noble.

Read more at Mur’s blog and download the books in mobi or epub format.

The Periodic Tables of Everything but Elements

Geeks love the periodic table. They love it so much, they’ll apply it to almost anything. Go ahead—Google “periodic table of [your favorite thing]” and somebody’s probably done it. Or, you can save the effort and enjoy these that I gathered for you.

The Periodic Table of Sci-Fi Film and Television

Order a poster-sized version for $18.



The Periodic Table of Sewing

The Scientific Seamstress, a molecular biologist and sewing hobbyist blogger, created this one for needle-and-thread lovers. You can download it at 20″x30″ to print yourself.


The Periodic Table of Dessert

Andrew Plotkin, this table’s creator, laments, “You’ve seen those charts that say, like, ‘Periodic Table of the Vegetables’ or ‘Periodic Table of the Sausages’? They annoy me. Because they’re not periodic.” He answered with a table of dessert, which you can buy poster-sized in his CafePress store.


The Periodic Table of Nickelodeon

See larger over at randomoverload.

The Periodic Table of Robots

This one is geektastic, but if you go check out the original at Sankaku Complex, be warned that the site is definitely NSFW.


The Periodic Table of Superheroes

Leanna at Raptor Toe created this one.


The Periodic Table of the Internet

Finally, like a scientific love note to the reason we’re all gathered here together, the Periodic Table of the Internet by Wellington Grey, although the URLs in the image no longer work. (Do you know where WG went?)

Megacon 2012 – Let the Countdown begin

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…MEGACON TIME! To me, it’s one of the highlights of my trooping season. Geeks from around the country come to Orlando for 3 days of happy geeking out. You can see anything and everything at Megacon and I look forward to it every year.

Last year the 501st legion appeared in full force. We helped raise over $1,000 for the Red Cross with our Shoot a Stormtrooper activity and this year we plan on doing it again for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. This year we are joined again by the Rebel Legion, Southern R2 Builders Group, and Costumer’s with a Cause. Stan Lee is also scheduled to be back again this year for autographs and a panel to talk about his career and Marvel Comics.

If you come in costume, be prepared to be flashed…by cameras that is. Last year it took me about an hour just to walk into the con because I was stopped every 10 feet (I think at one point I had a short line). A silly Megacon tradition is the carrying of free hug signs. Look for them as I am sure some fan boy or fan girl will be wearing one. As with most cons, if you plan on attending, buy your tickets online ahead of time and get there at least one hour early. This will give you plenty of time to get your tickets and see some of the amazing costumes before heading into the panels or the exhibitor hall.

I’ll be incognito each day so I’ll see you there…even if you don’t see me. 😉

What’s Up With Tranquillityite?


Tranquillityite, moon rock in Australia, space invasion,
It Came From Outer Space


A moon mineral has been discovered in Australia.

Tranquillityite was named after the Sea of Tranquility, site of Apollo 11’s 1969 landing site. Like the other two minerals found in rocks brought back from that mission, it was long assumed to be unique to the Moon’s surface. Well, until now.

We know science will provide a handy geological explanation, but it’s far easier and more amusing to look to the movies for answers. Consider the following.

The mineral was smuggled in by the Cybertronian spacecraft, Ark, but those scenes may have been cut from Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

It was mined, along with helium-3, by automated harvesters but AI assistant GERTY ddn’t let Lunar Industries employee Sam Bell know why in Moon.

It was discovered in 1899 by Victorian astronauts, although not without trouble from those pesky lunar inhabitants, Selenites, and brought back to earth in a gravity-free shapeship, as shown in H.G. Well’s First Men In The Moon.

Unintentional crash landing of alien spacecraft brought the sample as we learn from the Ray Bradbury classic, It Came from Outer Space. (This implies that some Australians are actually aliens while their real forms have been abducted.)

Or it never came from the Moon at all. That’s what Capricorn One tells us.

What other movies do you think best explain the tranquillityite question?



Essential Geek Quotes: “We’re All Fine Here…”

"Aren't you a little short for a Stormtrooper?" Photo: Nicole Wakelin

If you don’t know how to fill in the rest of that quote, shame on you. Yes, I’m being horribly judgmental but I am an avowed Star Wars fan and that quote is one of the biggies. It’s right up there with “Use the Force, Luke!” and “I’ve got a very bad feeling about this.” I think it’s fair to say that having at least a few Star Wars quotes in your repertoire of witty comebacks is a geek essential.

I could write this whole post about Star Wars quotes alone, but that would mean ignoring some of my favorites from elsewhere in the geekverse. There’s Star Trek, and Firefly, and The Terminator, and Monty Python, and, and, and…. actually I could probably write a book. I don’t have the time today, though, given Christmas presents like Star Wars: The Old Republic and Lego Mindstorms demanding my attention. So instead, here are just a few of my favorites. Not afraid you won’t know them all? You will be, you WILL be….

“Use the Force, Luke!”

Really, if you don’t know this one, then how on earth did you even find this blog? I should not need to tell you this but it’s from Star Wars: A New Hope because it’s the biggest, most important quote in all of geek history with endless potential for use in daily conversation. Co-worker can’t get his file cabinet open? Struggling to get the lid of a jar of pickles? Can’t quite reach the genuine replica lightsaber on your mantle? All these moments are perfect opportunities to break out this quote.

“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.”

No one could forget Spock uttering this phrase as he was overcome by radiation after saving the Enterprise in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Then there’s the slow slide down the glass as he collapses to the floor and dies. Wait, I need a minute. This quote encompasses the essence of all that is Star Trek. The Federation is not about power and privilege, but about making the galaxy a better place and sacrificing for the common good. Use this one to con your friends into doing anything, from seeing a movie they don’t want to see to giving you the last piece of pizza because you need it more. Try it, you’ll see.

“I aim to misbehave.”

A bit newer on the scene, but still an essential geek quote spoken by Captain Malcolm Reynolds on the short-lived Firefly television series. Unlike Spock or Obi-Wan’s lines, there’s no depth of meaning behind this one. It’s a simple statement of the intent to have fun, cause trouble, and wreak a certain amount of gleeful havoc. Hey, New Year’s Eve is just a few days away, a moment designed for this quote if ever there was one.

“My precious!”

If you ask Gollum, this line refers to The One Ring in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, but you can use it to refer to just about anything. It might be something amazing like a shiny new car or something you intend to take before your friends get the chance–like the last piece of pizza. If you want it, then it’s your precious. The key here is that you not only can but must use a creepy, scratchy Gollum-like voice to deliver this line.

“Have fun storming the castle!”

This is one of those movies that, if you watch it once, you can’t help but find yourself quoting forever. The Princess Bride is chock full of memorable quotes, but this is one easy to sneak into conversations. Send your kids off to school or your husband off to work with this cheery wish. Or, your co-workers on their way to what is sure to be a long, boring meeting or evening commute home.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list, like I said, that would require a book, but these are certainly my favorite and easiest-to-use quotes. If you know them all, 10 Geek Points to you! (And if you’re still wondering about that first one, watch the clip below.)

More importantly, what would you add as essential quotes for every geek to master?

(Editor’s Note: For inspiration, you might want to check out GeekDad’s “100 Quotes Every Geek Should Know.”)

Sci-Fi, Where Are You?

Mal and Kaylee at NYCC, Image: Nicole Wakelin

Several years ago we ditched cable because it seemed we were getting more reality shows than anything else and paying a ridiculous amount for the privilege. Instead we stream the shows we want to see and even paying by the episode for a few still puts us ahead of our old cable bill. Usually, we have more than enough to keep us busy, but this year, sadly, we have not found an “it” show. Worse, we don’t have a sci-fi show in our queue at all. What happened to sci-fi television?

I should be clear that I am talking spaceships and aliens and not just shows with an “out there” theme. I am a big fan of Fringe, but it does not involve space travel. There are no new planets or green-skinned aliens so it doesn’t count. Same with Terra Nova which, honestly, I am only half interested in to begin with because it’s just Jurassic Park revised. No space ships there, although that big thing they walked through to go back in time was a Stargate if ever there was one.

No, what I want is a Battlestar Galactica, a Firefly, a Star Trek. Heck, it doesn’t have to be remotely related to a franchise that already exists as long as it gets us off of planet Earth and on to planet-not-yet-discovered. What happened to those shows? Why have they forsaken us?

Perhaps it’s Sci Fi Channel becoming SyFy that started the downward trend. If even the network that is supposed to be the go-to place for science fiction decides it doesn’t want to be that anymore, then you know the genre is headed for trouble. At this point, I’d take reruns of Lost in Space like they used to air when the network was new. Those shiny, silver spacesuits were so cool. I wanted one. Okay, I still want one.

I suppose I will have to be content with the huge amount of older sci-fi that can be streamed. Re-watching Star Trek: The Next Generation has gotten my kids completely hooked which makes me happy. I also found a little gem in The Captains, a movie documentary that is a touching look at the people who brought the Star Trek captains to life, courtesy of William Shatner. And there are those Firefly DVDs that I haven’t broken out in awhile.

It looks like I’m out of luck this season and will have to resort to old favorites to get my fix of spaceships and aliens. Maybe next year the networks will remember there are plenty of viewers who love sci-fi and that we’d really like to have a new favorite show. So say we all!

Star Wars: The Old Republic, You’re My Only Hope

Star Wars: The Old Republic

I have never been a fan of MMOs. It’s not that I hate them, nor do I harbor any ill will to those that play, but I just can’t seem to get drawn into one. My brother-in-law has been addicted to playing World of  Warcraft for years and I’m always amazed by how involved he is in the stories happening in that other world. He tells me all about his adventures with his guild and how he’s meeting up with everyone for one thing or another and that he must have access to his laptop at a certain time or the world will end. No, really, he is one devoted player.

During a big ice storm here one winter he lost power and his whole family ended up sleeping at our place for over a week. He packed up his wife and kids and all their necessities and navigated treacherous roads to find his way to our toasty warm home. As his wife unpacked clothes and sleeping bags and a few things she’d salvaged from their refrigerator, he unpacked his laptop, gaming headset, and the most ridiculous looking mouse I have ever seen, ever. It looked a bit like an armadillo but I’m told it made gameplay much better.

So, I get that MMOs are something people can truly become immersed in and fall in love with, but it just hasn’t happened for me. I’m a little jealous, truth be told, because although I understand how it all works I don’t feel connected to that world. I watch The Guild and get the jokes, but I always wish, just a little, that I had a crazy group of online friends that would wreak havoc on my world were I to meet them IRL. That’s “in real life”, see, I get the lingo even, but I have never found an MMO to call my own. There is one beacon of hope, however, and that beacon is Star Wars: The Old Republic

There is no doubt that Star Wars was my gateway into sci-fi. I saw the movie when I was all of seven years old, dressed up as Princes Leia that Halloween and had a room full of action figures by Christmas. I wanted to pilot a ship and blow up Death Stars, wield a lightsaber and have my very own R2 unit to keep my company. Not one of those things has changed since I’ve grown-up. Okay, the action figures are safely packed, and the Leia costume is too small, but that’s the only difference. If ever there was an MMO that could finally draw me in, finally make me want to immerse myself in another world, this would be the one.

I’ve seen it previewed at cons and heard rave reviews. I have gone so far as to preorder a copy (two actually so hubby and I both can play) and am now struggling with which of the many guilds forming already will be the one I choose to join. And although I’m fairly certain I want to be a good guy, the lure of the Dark Side is strong, and if they really do have cookies I may be a goner. I have pinned all my hopes on this game. I want to like it. I want to say “Yes, I play an MMO!” and I want that crazy group of online friends.

The game doesn’t hit shelves until December 20th which is still over two months away, but the chatter and excitement from my friends is nearly deafening. I’ve bought into the idea of this game hook, line and sinker. But, if it fails me, if it doesn’t draw me in and turn me into a Jedi (or Sith) for at least a few hours at a time, you will hear my cry of disappointment the world over. Star Wars: The Old Republic, you really are my only hope.

Nerd Rage, Doctor Who and Sonic Screwdrivers

Dalek, TARDIS, Doctor…and Sonic Screwdriver, Image: Nicole Wakelin

I’ve only recently discovered Doctor Who. Well, recent meaning the latest incarnations of him that began in 2005. I saw a few episodes back when I was a kid but they scared me so badly (cheesy Daleks and all) that even today they give me the creeps. I’m okay with big budget, 3D, in-your-face scary movies, but Tom Baker and that scarf on a television screen send me running every time.

Since I’ve been watching the new series though, I have completely fallen in love with the Doctor Who universe. Even the Daleks. Which is why last night I may have gotten into a bit of an argument with someone who not only doesn’t like The Doctor, but who thinks the sonic screwdriver is silly.

Yes, that’s right, there’s a bona fide nerd out there who puts Doctor Who on his list of things he should like but just can’t manage to watch. My first reaction was a gasp of disbelief, followed by mumbly stuttering sounds as I tried to form some kind of defense. But before I even had a chance he went on to disparage the sonic screwdriver. I know. What do you even say to that? If someone doesn’t “get” just how awesome a sonic screwdriver is, how useful, nifty, and just plain wonderful a gadget it is, how do those of us in the know even begin to explain?

I did my best to defend my beloved Doctor and may have convinced this lunatic, er, I mean this very nice guy, to watch a few episodes more, maybe. But once our conversation was over I just couldn’t get past the idea that he didn’t like the sonic screwdriver. He thought it was hokey. The more I thought about it the more the nerd rage burned in my chest. The sonic screwdriver is right it up there with some of the best sci-fi tools ever invented. I mean, it’s like someone saying they don’t get lightsabers! How can you not get lightsabers? It’s impossible. They’re shiny and cut through stuff and look cool slicing through the air, even more so when there are an uncountable number of them on a giant battlefield. (Deep breath)

I vented my nerd rage on twitter, and was mollified by the number of people that shook their head in sad agreement that, nice as this guy was, he was utterly wrong. Which, when you think about it, is the crux of every nerd rage filled argument ever waged. It’s not about seeing both sides or appreciating someone else’s opinion. In the Geekverse there can be only one opinion. It’s the one that we each hold dear and that makes it the only right one. Anyone who disagrees is completely and hopelessly wrong. Like this guy. And I have plenty of tweets to prove it next time we talk. Now I’m off to watch The Doctor save the world with his beautiful, wonderful and very cool sonic screwdriver.





Ray Bradbury: More Afraid of People Than Robots

Ray Bradbury’s dystopian classic, Fahrenheit 451

For those of you who wouldn’t know, the Guardian Reading Group began with Ray Bradbury’s dystopian classic, Fahrenheit 451, by readers’ choice.

That’s a great, revolutionary choice (so they said), that will especially appeal to us geek people in love with classical sci-fi, and to us parents looking for books to discuss with our children. Utopian and dystopian fiction is a fascinating subject, or so I think. I often study it with my sixteen and seventeen years old students.

If you never read it, “the novel presents a future American society where reading is outlawed and firemen start fires to burn books.” (Wikipedia)

You may, of course, read or reread the book, and discuss it part by part on the Guardian website, or follow the Guardian’s Reading group on Twitter. You may also read some companion posts on Guardian Books. They promised one on the novel’s historical context, Cold War and McCarthyism. They also provide a list of “further readings” to offer some background to Bradbury’s life and books.

Among these suggestions were two really delightful pieces for any geek.

One is a letter by Ray Bradbury himself, written in 1974 and transcripted on the lovely Letters of note website. Asked about “the danger of robots taking over our human world”, Bradbury writes a truly wonderful answer:

Can’t resist commenting on your fears of the Disney robots. Why aren’t you afraid of books, then? The fact is, of course, that people have been afraid of books, down through history. They are extensions of people, not people themselves. Any machine, any robot, is the sum total of the ways we use it. Why not knock down all robot camera devices and the means for reproducing the stuff that goes into such devices, things called projectors in theatres? A motion picture projector is a non-humanoid robot which repeats truths which we inject into it. Is it inhuman? Yes. Does it project human truths to humanize us more often than not? Yes.

The excuse could be made that we should burn all books because some books are dreadful.

We should mash all cars because some cars get in accidents because of the people driving them.

We should burn down all the theatres in the world because some films are trash, drivel.

So it is finally with the robots you say you fear. Why fear something? Why not create with it? Why not build robot teachers to help out in schools where teaching certain subjects is a bore for EVERYONE? Why not have Plato sitting in your Greek Class answering jolly questions about his Republic? I would love to experiment with that. I am not afraid of robots. I am afraid of people, people, people. I want them to remain human. I can help keep them human with the wise and lovely use of books, films, robots, and my own mind, hands, and heart.

I am afraid of Catholics killing Protestants and vice versa.

I am afraid of whites killing blacks and vice versa.

I am afraid of English killing Irish and vice versa.

I am afraid of young killing old and vice versa.

I am afraid of Communists killing Capitalists and vice versa.

But…robots? God, I love them. I will use them humanely to teach all of the above. My voice will speak out of them, and it will be a damned nice voice.

The second is a video tribute, written for the author’s 90th birthday by comedian Rachel Bloom. Be careful, it’s definitely not suitable for children under 18, as YouTube confirms! But the video is hilarious, and comforting in a strange way, thinking that old sci-fi writers can be strongly desirable in our time and place.

“Does the idea of book burning still resonate?” wonder The Guardian and its readers. It certainly does, as Banned Books Week will confirm in a few days.

Game Review: Star Trek Fleet Captains

Star Trek Fleet Captains by WizKids

One of the benefits of attending GenCon is that you can pick up copies of games before they’re scheduled to be in retail stores. I walk through the aisles very carefully, trying not to be lured in by something that I can simply buy as soon as I get home. Star Trek Fleet Captains, by WizKids, is not due on store shelves for at least 6 more weeks so it fit my requirements and was therefore carefully transported back with me at the end of the convention. Yesterday, I was thrilled to have a chance to play it through for the first time.

Starfleet Ships with Reference Cards

What struck me about it just while watching the demos was that ships and characters from different shows and movies were on the table together.  Star Trek Fleet Captains lets you create a fleet made up of the Enterprise A, Voyager and even the Enterprise E, which is just plain fun if you’re a Trekkie.  In all, you’ll get 12 Federation and 12 Klingon ships, each with a Clix dial on the base that let’s you adjust shields, weapons, sensors and engines as you battle each other to accomplish your missions.

You can choose to bump up your shields in anticipation of your opponent’s attack, but that may also cause a huge reduction in your engines or weapons.  The choice is up to you and will be completely dependent on the cards you draw and the battles you fight.  There’s also a reference card for each ship, so you can see exactly what you sacrifice and gain with each turn of the dial, as well as showing your limited options after minor damage (Yellow Alert) or major damage (Red Alert).

The hexagonal tiles of the game board

The board itself is made up of hexagonal tiles that are shuffled and then placed face down to create the space between the two factions.  As you move across the board, tiles are flipped revealing the details of that location.  It could be a Class-M planet that you choose to control so you can build an Outpost and have a place to repair damaged ships.  It might be a Class J Nebula or even just Empty Space which also comes with the quote “Space….the final frontier.”  Depending on the speed of your ship, you can move several tiles a turn, but be wary.  There are unfriendly tiles out there that will cause damage to your ship if you remain on them at the end of your turn.

Tribbles Encounter Card

As each tile is flipped, a die is rolled to determine if you must draw an Encounter card. If you do draw a card and win the encounter you earn precious Victory Points which are needed to win the game, but if you fail then there’s trouble.  I ended up with tribbles on one ship after a failed Encounter.  Silly things disabled two of my systems and wreaked havoc on my ability to complete my missions.  I got rid of them by increasing powers to my sensors, playing a Masterful Bluff card to avoid a Klingon ship, and then transporting the tribbles over to the unwitting Klingons before warping out of that sector.  That kind of moment, when you get to do things that feel like they’re right out of the show, makes this game a heck of a lot of fun.

An incredible number of cards and tokens along with the twenty-four ships in this box make this game infinitely replayable.  You get 76 mission cards, some revealed so you have a chance to thwart your opponent but others a secret so you’re left guessing.  There are also 50 Encounter cards and 200 Command cards that can enhance the abilities of your ship.  Each is perfectly themed to the people and items they represent.

Wesley Crusher and Captain Kirk

Command cards give you crew members like Wesley Crusher enhancing engines and shields, Quark adding influence, Spock increasing sensor power and Kirk letting you do the impossible.  It’s exactly what you’d expect of these characters!  Then there are the Encounter cards with the tribbles I mentioned earlier, as well as Dilithium crystals to increase engine speed, Tachyon Pulses to mess with cloaking and Ferengi traders that offer you deals you can’t, but should, refuse.

The gameplay is fun and really gets moving once you’ve had a chance to run through the rules which can be downloaded direct from WizKids before you even make the purchase.  The box says it takes ninety minutes to play and we went just over that on our first time out. It can be played with 2 or 4 players, ages 14 and up, who form up into teams and retails for $100.  Yes, that’s a steep price, but consider the number of ships alone, then add in all the cards and tokens, and it’s not unreasonable.  Also, the huge number of card combinations means this is a different game every time you play and won’t sit in your closet neglected after a few tries.  The replayability and spot-on theming make Star Trek Fleet Captains a great game to add to your collection.


Vote For Top-100 Science Fiction, Fantasy Titles

Could you narrow your favorite science fiction and fantasy books down to just ten? In an effort to compile the top-100 titles in this combined genre, NPR is hosting an online poll. Nominations took place last month and garnered more than 5,000 responses. NPR narrowed the field down to just a few hundred and invites the public to chime in with votes for their top ten picks. They don’t specify a closing date for voting, but promise to release results by about August 11, 2011.

I was surprised to see Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series in the mix. They’re a great read, but I wouldn’t have put them in this genre. I was happy to see the Temeraire series included here (recommended years ago by fellow homeschooler Chris O’Donnell) but noticed a glaring omission: A Wrinkle in Time.

Is there a title on the list that surprised you? Or one you think is missing?

Photo: Photographed during the making of a BBC documentary (no known copyright restrictions).

The End of Borders


It has been buzzing all over the web that Borders is going to be closing the rest of their stores and liquidating all of their assets. I’ve read that the reasoning for the closing Borders not being able to enter into the eReader market and the downswing in the economy. The market for books is changing because of eBooks and Borders Kobo eReader hasn’t gotten nearly as much press as the Kindle or Nook. Honestly, I didn’t even know that Borders had an eReader until I was looking at their website to write this post.

For me, this news makes me a little sad. When I was younger, I’d spend hours in Borders browsing all the shelves upon shelves of books. I’ve always adored reading, so I’ve been a fan of the big book stores because their selection of fantasy and sci-fi books were always much better than smaller bookstores I frequented. This made me very happy, and I would always have a hard time deciding what book to bring home with me.

I do enjoy eBooks, but the move from traditional books to eBooks feels like the end of an era. When I was growing up, my dad had many bookshelves in our basement with lovely, geeky books. When I was in high school, I literally read my way all the way through his library. While I do have a lot of paper books, I’ve found that I’m buying more and more books for my Kindle. I like the idea of always having a portable, little library with me. But I do still love my built in bookshelves (a big reason I wanted to buy our house) filled to the brim with well loved books.

The closing down of Borders feels almost like the closing down of traditional books. I know there will be more stories to read, but the book industry is really changing right now. I wonder if any of the other big book retailers will have the same fate as Borders.

How do you all feel about the demise of Borders?

Transformers 3: Why It’s the Best Movie I’ve Seen This Summer

Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon

I did what any red-blooded American did over our holiday weekend. That’s right, I went to see a movie. This was after consuming roughly my own body weight in hamburgers and hot dogs while hanging out with friends all afternoon. I almost didn’t go to see Transformers 3 because it was getting a love it/hate it response from people and I was desperately afraid I’d fall into the hate it camp. There’s nothing as disappointing as walking in to a movie thinking it will be fantastic, but wandering out a few hours later wishing you could get a refund.

We didn’t leave terribly early for this one so when we arrived I was just hoping we’d get seats that weren’t in the very first row. No problem. Ten minutes before it was due to start there were only four other people in the theater. Four. This may have increased my anxiety just a tad since a big movie and an empty theater is generally not a good sign. By the time the movie started there were maybe two dozen of us, clutching our sodas and turning off our phones as the previews started.

Despite all my anxiety, all my worries that I would be terribly disappointed, this is officially the best movie I’ve seen this summer.

Now, now, now before you get all bent out of shape and call me crazy, let me explain. I wanted action. Unrealistic, completely over-the-top, not possible, unsurvivable by mere mortals action. I wanted fighting robots. I wanted fun one-liners and corny comic relief. Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon had all of these things.

I’ve heard complaints that Shia LaBeouf was mopey and didn’t do much for the first half of the movie. Okay, I’ll agree he was a bit mopey but it made sense for his character and there was so much happening around him, so much crazy, that I could forgive the mopey. Also, there is a fantastic car chase where our hero is about to die and Bumblebee morphs from car to bot to car again all while Shia flies through the air letting out a scream worthy of a twelve year old girl. I love him for pulling that off perfectly and making me and everyone else in the theater laugh and will forgive the mopey for that scene alone.

There are also complaints that the action is too drawn out and completely unrealistic. Really? So when you went in for a movie about alien robots that transform into cars and help save our world from destruction, were you really expecting a film firmly rooted in reality? That there’s your problem. This is, at its heart, a Transformers movie. Half the fun of seeing this is watching stuff you know would never work, not even a little, and seeing it, well, work. Sure, the chances you’d survive sliding through the shattered glass of a giant skyscraper without being sliced to bits are very small. It doesn’t matter. They survived and it was awesome.

I’m critical of movies that don’t live up to my expectations, especially when they advertise themselves as one thing but turn out to be something else. That makes me walkaway angry. But Transformers was exactly what it was billed…action, explosions, robots, action and action. My expectations were firmly met and I just held on for the ride. It wasn’t a serious, hard-hitting commentary on the world and the human condition. It was the Transformers doing what they do best. Oh, and one last thing. The voice of Sentinel Prime is Leonard Nimoy. If you happen to be a Star Trek fan, pay close attention to this little fact. LLAP, enjoy the movie, and let me know what you thought of this actionfest.

A Late Viewing of Battlestar Galactica

Image: Wikipedia

Similar to Jenn having never watched Firefly, I never saw the new Battlestar Galactica.

My best friend found out and immediately lent me her DVDs of the series. It took me a while to get started, but once I did, I was sucked in.

I’m not sure why I didn’t start watching BSG earlier, but I think it is because I missed the beginning on TV. It’s hard to come into the middle of a series that should be watched from the beginning.

I had been meaning to watch it since it seemed like something I would like. Plus, I attend Dragon*Con, and there always seems to be a lot of BSG guests at Dragon*Con. So, I found that once I started watching, it was hard to stop.

I recently finished the series, and I thought it was excellent. Even season 3, which many people do not like, I enjoyed. Though there was that brief “what the heck is going on” at the beginning of season 3. The end wraps things up nicely, with some surprises in there.

If you haven’t watched this series before, I would recommend it highly. I would caution that if you do, don’t wiki anything. I made that mistake several times, and got spoiled several times. It didn’t change my enjoyment of the show though.

Next on my list of shows that I wish I was already watching but never started is Dr. Who. I have the first season of the new series that I’ll be starting next.

Falling Skies, or Stupid Human Tricks

Falling Skies on TNT

The first alien invasion story I ever saw was The War of the Worlds. Not the new one with Tom Cruise, but the original 1953 version. I couldn’t have been more than seven when I watched it on TV one sunny Saturday afternoon. Do you know why I’ve never seen the remake? Because the original scared me half to death.

There’s a scene where an alien camera-thing sort of sneaks up behind a woman. It looks like a head with three glowing eyes and it slinks down from the ceiling on a long tube of a neck. When she finally notices this monstrosity she lets out an impressive blood-curdling scream before the hero lops off the offending head with an axe. The neck then zips back up through the ceiling and into the ship hovering above them in the sky. I may have screamed.

And what do these humans do after inflicting bodily harm on the alien camera-head thingy? They grab the head to take back to their lab for study and get the heck out of Dodge because there are giant killer aliens with laser beams in the sky and all the humans have is an axe. See, smart humans. The humans in the TNT series Falling Skies, however, are from the shallow end of the gene pool since rather than doing smart things, these guys excel at Stupid Human Tricks that surely have the aliens laughing as they destroy the planet.

I watched the two-hour premier the other night and almost didn’t make it through the whole thing. First, there’s the cliched Dad-trying-to-save-his-kids. He’s just an ordinary, everyday guy who used to be a history teacher. He doesn’t t know the first thing about tactics, or fighting or any of that stuff. He’s just a guy, you know? He wants to keep his two boys safe and rescue the one who the aliens have already managed to wrench from his shaking hands. Poor Dad. Poor kids. Poor, poor humans. They’re a ragtag fugitive fleet, searching for justice and a little piece of earth they can call their own in a mad, mad world….ugh. I didn’t use enough cliches in that paragraph to fully convey how overused they are in this story.

The show begins six months after the aliens land on earth, blow up all the cool cities and start stealing our kids. Yeah, the kids. There are lots of scenes with the sad, sad, sad kids because that makes it deep and meaningful and touches something in the heart of even the most hardened viewer. We humans are on the run, stealing food and scavenging weapons as we evade our new alien overlords. Again, it’s been six months so these humans ought to be the smart ones, right? In The War of the Worlds, the first three guys the aliens kill are some goofballs that walk up to the ship waving white flags. That is a Stupid Human Trick and they are rightly incinerated. The folks who survive the opening salvos are smart because they run in the opposite direction and hide in bunkers and behind sandbags and are all sneaky-like.

In the opening scenes of Falling Skies, they hide behind completely ineffective piles of burned out cars in the middle of the street and get blow to bits while trying to push along a little trolley cart full of food. Stupid Human Trick. If I was going to sneak into a store on a debris filled street to scavenge food right under the noses of the aliens I wouldn’t bring a wheeled cart that I had to push along like a little old lady. I’d bring a large backpack or two so my hands would be free to shoot and I could run as fast as my little feet could manage.

Later, they head to the armory to see what kind of weapons they might be able to secure. As a test, they throw a ball toward the entrance for their dog to follow and if an alien comes out, then they know they’ve got trouble. I liked this idea because this was a Smart Human Trick to root out the alien. And, surprise, there is an alien hiding in this obvious location full of weapons. Luckily, we’ve been warned thanks to Fido, but then this one guy runs out to save the dog! What, the what? Have they learned nothing in their six month occupation? Stupid Human Trick.

After the most recent episode, I can’t decide if it’s worth my time. I like alien invasion stories, even the ones that scared me as a kid, but I hate it when they are full of Stupid Human Tricks. I end up rooting for the aliens, or the evil human that inevitably makes an appearance. In fact, the evil human in Falling Skies was all kinds of crazy awesome and he might be what gets me to watch the next episode. That, and the off chance that there might be some intelligent life on our own planet who can save these fools from themselves.

What do you think? Can’t wait to see what happens to our hapless humans or are you rooting for the aliens?

Why Firefly?

Image: Fox

It may come as a shock to some that I don’t like sci-fi. Well, strike that. With the exception of Star Trek and the original Star Wars, I don’t like sci-fi and, for some hardcore sci-fi fans, it could be argued that both of those are entirely too mainstream and commercialized to boot.

This is not an arbitrary decision based on non-exposure either. I’ve read AND watched Dune and didn’t like them. I’ve been given a chance to try to read Foundations and while I couldn’t get through it I have no desire to try again. (This is unlike my keen desire to finally make it through Lord of the Rings. I love the book, I love the writing, but Tolkien is, um, verbose. Don’t shake your head at me, you know full well what I’m talking about! I will read it. Eventually.) I’ve others under my belt and am just not thrilled by them. It’s no reflection on the books, subject matter, or fans, it just not my thing.

So it was not a stretch for me to have absolutely NO interest in Firefly. In the early days, my heart strings were tugged just a bit by Joss Whedon’s name. I was and still am a Buffy fan. I didn’t hear about Firefly until long after it was taken off the air and the more I looked the less interested I was; Whedon’s involvement alone couldn’t manage to sway me. First, it only made it one season. No show worth its salt can only last one season. And last, two words: Space. Cowboys. Really?

I knew others absolutely loved the show, others including close friends of mine. I never said it was a bad show, just not one I was interested in watching. These same friends poked, prodded, pleaded, begged, bribed, and eventually threatened to feed me to Reavers (this made no sense to me at the time) until I agreed, half-heartedly, to finally watch the show. I found a box set of the entire series plus the Serenity movie in my hands before a week had elapsed on my begrudging “Ok, fine.”

So, being a woman who stays true to her word, I popped the first DVD in, started the first episode and was confused as hell. On my friends’ advice, I watched them in sequential order, as the show was designed to be aired.  Seeing as a certain network apparently chose to experiment with playing series out of order, the show suffered. Knowing this going in, I figured watching the first episode would make sense since I had the benefit of watching it, well, first. It didn’t. I spent the whole thing staring at my TV, one eyebrow arched, and my head tilted to the side, trying every which way to make sense of what I was seeing.

Then the episode ended. And I immediately started the second. Normally suffering from that much confusion and having no idea what the point or purpose of the storyline was would have been enough to make me tap out the next round. But I found myself drawn to the characters. I didn’t know any of them… but I wanted to.

I really wanted to know how happy, bright, slightly crazy Kaylee ended up a mechanic. I had to figure out why I seemed to like Mal when everything he did really should have annoyed me. Simon and River were a whole other mess that my brain had to figure out. It wasn’t an option, it was a mission. Jayne cracked me up for so many reasons. And how did “warrior woman” Zoe end up with Wash? Not that I had a problem with Wash personally, as my geek crush on Alan Tudyk expanded a bit. I hadn’t realized he was a part of the cast. The more I watched, the more things made sense, as is normally the case.  (The episode “Out of Gas” helped tremendously.)  But instead of the intrigue wearing off as my questions were answered, it only grew. I wanted more. I felt the addiction forming before I’d made it halfway through the episodes, not to mention the movie, Serenity.

Due to parental obligation it took me a over a week to finish the series, being forced to wait until after bedtime to indulge and needing to remind myself nightly, that I too had a bedtime. I loved, and craved, the show but it is definitely not appropriate for my three year old. I watched each episode, soaking it all in, pleased by the appropriate level of drama balanced by comedic relief. (I heart Alan Tudyk, might have mentioned that already.) Witty sarcasm and clever dialogue plus an ingenious little bit of plot and subplot development appeased the writer in me. Horseback riding, old fashioned guns, and badly mangled southern drawls appeased the Oklahoman in me.

However I re-watched the entire season this weekend while my daughter was with her dad for Father’s Day. It was glorious although being the sympathetic viewer/reader I am, I’m struggling with using proper English today. It should be said that Nathan Fillion has been added to my list of geek crushes and that I’ve decided I will never buy an album featuring any music of Joss Whedon. I love him. But not as a singer. For you fellow Firefly virgins, he composed the opening theme song.

I’ll not publish any spoilers in case you are not yet a Firefly fan and have been considering giving it a shot. I highly recommend it and I’ll give you a few good reasons.

It only made one season. It was a brilliant season and it was not the show’s fault it got canceled. It was the network’s.

While it is sci-fi, it has a good basis in reality. That’s always my struggle with sci-fi. I’m entirely too logical to accept the surreality necessary to enjoy sci-fi. Firefly handles this well.

Two words: Space. Cowboys. Yeah, really.




Princess Leia And The Force

Princess Leia Cupcake by

I am definitely a Star Wars junkie. It started when I was seven and saw the first movie in theaters with my Dad. He’d actually seen it once already just to make sure it wasn’t too scary, and he made me close my eyes when Obi-Wan lopped off Ponda Baba’s arm in the Mos Eisley Cantina. It was years before I actually saw that scene, and let me tell you, what I imagined in my little head was far more gruesome than what was actually shown on screen. Never underestimate the power of a seven-year-old’s imagination.

I desperately wanted to be Princess Leia that Halloween, but we could not find a costume. This was before the movie marketing juggernauts of today, so my Mom made what would be my favorite costume ever. It was a robe-like dress with white vinyl boots and had the coolest belt covered with glittery silver fabric. The best part, though, was a brown wig with loops of yarn perfectly arranged into those famous cinnabuns. I was so rockin’ the cosplay!

Sadly, my cool Leia wig and costume have been lost to the ravages of time, but my love of Star Wars remains. I have the requisite lightsabers and have nearly broken light fixtures with them more times than I can count. My family is addicted to the Lego Star Wars games and I even had a Star Wars vanity plate on my car. (It was PODRCR on a Volkswagen Turbo Beetle.  If you can’t figure it out, shame!)

I don’t dress up for Halloween anymore, but I still want to be Princess Leia and use The Force so every time I approach automatic doors I ever so slightly raise my hand and will them to open. I’ve gotten my kids to do this once or twice at the grocery store and if we time it just right we are the perfect Jedi family.

This weekend I used The Force on the super-fast doors at the entrance to the subway station. It worked perfectly on the way in, but on the way out, my powers were apparently weakened and halfway through the doors they closed. That’s right, my arm was nearly lopped off just like Ponda Baba’s. Thankfully, the doors were not as sharp as a lightsaber and my arm is still attached to my body. Next time, though, I’ll be a bit more cautious. Jedi Master, I am not….yet.

Torchwood: Captain Jack is Back!

Captain Jack and His Coat

I’m a big fan of Captain Jack Harkness. I think it has lots to do with that coat he always wears. Coats are cool, just like fezzes and bow ties and Stetsons. The only difference is that Captain Jack doesn’t ever tell you his coat is cool. It just is. When I finished watching the last Torchwood series I was very sad that I would be seeing no more of my favorite overly-sexed, wise-cracking, too handsome for his own good, hero.  There was talk about the series returning and about who exactly would come back, but it all seemed to be in that ethereal Never Never Land that holds things like the possibility of new episodes of Firefly. Yet with the unveiling of the new trailer for Torchwood: Miracle Day, it finally feels like this one is going to happen, but will it be any good?

Captain Jack looks good. He’s got his snappy coat and a fabulous little moment in the trailer that is so typically him it made me want to scream for joy. After an explosion sends him and a woman flying out of a window and into a water fountain he smiles, holds out his hand, and introduces himself. Yeah, that’s the Captain Jack I know and love. Even Gwen has a great scene in which she proudly declares herself Welsh and kicks the snot out of a snarky American. This brings up exactly what makes me nervous about what otherwise promises to be the triumphant return of one of my favorite shows. It’s what I like to call “The American Effect.”

The thing is, British programs just aren’t the same as their American counterparts. There are more than a few shows that were hugely successful in their original British incarnations, but that completely fell to pieces and failed to connect once they were remade for an American audience. The one that always comes to mind for me is Coupling which is one of my all-time favorites shows, but whose American version was rightly canceled in just a few episodes. There’s something that gets lost in the translation. Maybe its stuck in that Never Never Land I mentioned earlier. This is what has me nervous about the new Torchwood.

Although this isn’t a remake, but a continuation of the original series. It’s no longer set in Wales. They’ve moved to Los Angeles, which sort of feels like the anti-Wales with all the sun, and there are new American characters. We still have Captain Jack and Gwen, but the rest of the team is new. I’m really hoping they’ve kept the flavor of the original setting and not lost it’s grittiness in the move across the ocean. The previews do look great though, and are more than enough to keep me counting down the days until the series premiere on July 8th. As nervous as I am about the changes, as long as Captain Jack and his cool coat are there, I’ll be watching.

What do you think?  Will the changes improve the show or are they a bit worrisome?

Sci-Fi Girls Finally Have a Home

Its easy for me to forget that famous people live normal lives.  They speak English and drive cars and worry about make-up and husbands and doctor’s appointments. I was pleasantly reminded of this when my phone rang one sunny afternoon.  “Beverly Hills, CA,” it said.  Someone who actually lived in Beverly Hills was calling me.  Not just anyone, Ahsoka from Star Wars: Clone Wars. Well, not really Ahsoka, just her voice.  Ashley Eckstein is a perfectly pleasant person with a passion for science fiction.  This passion has driven her to launch a fantastic new site,  The project has taken three years to come to fruition but thanks to all Ashley’s efforts, sci-fi girls finally have a home.

Ashley Eckstein & Ahsoka

The site specializes in apparel and items just for the female variety of sci-fi fans (and fanatics.)

“I first realized my fascination with science fiction when I began working with Clone Wars as Ahsoka.  But really I’d always loved fantasy.  I grew up watching all the old cartoons with my brothers.  I loved The Never-Ending Story and especially Alice in Wonderland.  I absolutely love Alice in Wonderland.  I have a huge collection!” Ashley said of her absorption with science fiction.

“While I was in the midst of all the Star Wars stuff I realized that there wasn’t a whole lot out there for girls.  Over fifty percent of sci-fi fans are women and there was nothing for them.” In response to this serious lack of apparel and opportunity, Ashely launched her website to counter the stereotype that sci-fi is a boy’s club. is not just a shop though.  It is a community.  It is a place where the little-heard woman can go and chat up their favorite fantasy characters without fear of ridicule.  The message boards at Her Universe are highly moderated and women are encouraged to freely share.  I myself am a gamer but for fear of being ganged up on, or worse online stalked, rarely admit I’m a girl IRL (in real life).  Nothing gives your position away in a first person shooter like some guy shouting on public chat “I found a chick!!!” My game characters are often male, in figure and name.  When I confessed this to Ashley, she understood completely.

“I hope that all the sci-fi girls will come out of hiding.  I hope they will stand up without excuses, making no concessions, and say ‘I love sci-fi, and by the way, I can beat you at that game.'” It was absolutely invigorating to hear Ashley say everything that we GeekMoms have been screaming about since the advent of geekdom.  “The more girls who stand up the closer we get to beating down that stereotype.”

If you haven’t visited Her Universe that should be your very next stop.  After you finish reading GeekMom of course.  The holidays are coming up and Her Universe will be offering some astronomical deals. (Get it? I’m funny.)  Two new products will be hitting the e-shelves for Cyber Monday.  Star Wars fan-chicks can sport some Boba Fett underwear this holiday season.  They look like the classic Underoos only girl-cut with the ever-so-clever “I have a Boba Fett-ish” written on the booty.  The Imperial logo can grace your ear lobes via some hot new earrings available on the site.

Ashley was amped to share that Her Universe will soon be carrying all women’s apparel from the SyFy Channel. “The network is excited to cater to their female fans. Women will be getting their SyFy Channel gear before the men.  It’s fantastic.” I, for very personal obsessive reasons asked specifically about Firefly.  Ashley was unsure what specific shows would be available although she admitted that Firefly was among the top most requested sci-fi apparel for Her Universe.

Ashley Eckstein sporting Star Wars gear available on

To wrap our little chat I asked her if she had a specific message for our GeekMom community. What she said follows.

“Today, it is more and more acceptable for adults to be geeks. As kids you had to overcome the teasing and the ridicule and, unfortunately that hasn’t changed much for today’s kids. As moms you have the power to help young girls be proud of being a geek.   Tell your girls to be confident in their choices.  Confidence is an attractive quality and confidence turns to strength.  You are gonna get flak but it is only out of ignorance.  But keep your head held high and you’ll come out the other side a strong woman and a geek in all the best ways.”

Thank you, Ashley!  And keep on geekin’ out, babe!

Five Ways to Teach Science With Star Trek

Model of USS Enterprise from The Star Trek Experience, by Flickr user El Miali

When I was in tenth grade, my interest in astronomy collided with a boyfriend who was into Star Trek, just as The Next Generation was ending and Voyager was beginning. Two years later, I decided that I’d taken all the calculus any person needed, but I felt a little guilty not taking any math at all. So I made things even on the cosmic scales of STEM education by signing up for an astronomy class.

That class was taught by a man with a magical cabinet. Behind its doors were rows and rows of VHS tapes holding every episode of every season of every Star Trek series that had aired to date. And they weren’t just for rewards after a tough test or days we had a substitute–he used them to teach science.

At the time, this technique astounded me. A teacher using a TV show to actually teach? But the first half of science fiction is science, and many scientists today point to Star Trek as having inspired them to go into their fields. If I were to list technologies from the show that don’t actually exist, this post would be instantly out of date when somebody invented them tomorrow.

This is not to say, by any stretch, that Star Trek always got the science right. For the most recent movie’s rights and wrongs, read Bad Astronomer Phil Plait’s play-by-play. And NASA has a section of their site devoted to Star Trek. You can read up on technologies from the show and to what extent they exist in reality.

You can pick just about any episode and look for the science on your own. But here are a few to get you started.

  1. Medicine: “Angel One” (TNG)
    If someone asked me the one Star Trek invention I’d like to see in real life, it would probably be the replicator. But easily in second place is the hypospray–I really hate needles. Six years ago, I thought I got my wish when geek news was abuzz with the SonoPrep. Unfortunately, despite that FDA approval, my flu shot this year still came the old-fashioned way. Read more about jet injectors, which are actually older than Star Trek.
  2. Botany: “Parallax” (VOY)
    You’ll sometimes hear someone refer to the hydroponics lab on one of the ships. Deep Space 9 had its own hydroponic garden and an episode that mentioned a conference on the topic. Try building your own hydroponics system.
  3. Stellar cartography: “Lessons” (TNG) or just about any episode of Voyager
    The real-world word for what Star Trek calls “stellar cartography” is “uranography.” Unfortunately, most of us now live in areas with too much light pollution to see the stars well. But even if you can’t see much at night, you have other options. Use SKY-MAP.ORG to find sky objects that you would see, or that someone on the other side of the world is seeing. You can also help astronomers at Zooniverse by identifying galaxies, spotting solar explosions, exploring the moon, and looking for supernovae.
  4. Chemistry: “Rascals” (TNG) and “Cardassians” (DS9)
    Star Trek, like many shows and movies, was full of in-jokes and side humor. One of the best examples is the periodic table visible in these two episodes. They differ slightly from one another but quite a bit from the periodic table we learn about in real-world science class. Scroll through the elements in the Star Trek version of the periodic table and identify the fake elements. It’s also fun to try to guess the joke that led to the name. (Click any in that list to read more about them.) If your budding chemist has already memorized the real periodic table, see if she can spot the different atomic weights on the real elements.
  5. Nanotechnology: “Evolution” (TNG)
    Nanotech has come a long way since Wesley Crusher accidentally terrorized the Enterprise with his lost nanites. At the Project for Emerging Nanotechnologies, you can browse a list of where you’re encountering nanotech every day, from your sunscreen to your washing machine. If you aren’t lucky enough to be a student in Danville, IL classes experimenting with nanotech, try one of these experiments from Science in School.